Doug Elkins Dance Co, Peacock Theatre, London

B-boys and Burt don't mix
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The Independent Culture

"Anyonewhohadaheart (chung chung) wouldlookatme (chung chung) and know that I luu-uuu-urve you". Rarely has theatre etiquette felt so constraining as it did at the Peacock last week. It's just not done to vocalise the instrumentation out loud at a dance event. But by the twitching of heads in the stalls during the opening minutes of Doug Elkins's retro show you could tell most people over 40 were itching to air their entire Burt Bacharach bathroom repertoire.

The playlist read like a liturgy for the days when heavy petting was the worst one's parents imagined. "I've got flow-ers, and lots of hou-ers to spend with you" smirks Tom Jones in "What's New Pussycat?", and mercifully Elkins's choreography forbears to illustrate the cheesier aspects of courtship. The weird thing about this show is that Elkins, an American scarcely old enough to lay claim to these old pop standards, has until now been known to British audiences as a product of the breakdance phenomenon. Only last year he and his company were strutting their white b-boy credentials over here in a stunning display of break and popping moves – the edges smoothed in the interests of theatre presentation, but clearly street-inspired and packed with virtuosity.

The 23 vignettes that comprise The Look of Love extend that smoothing-out process into territory so compromised that Elkins's signature is barely visible. Of course you can't breakdance to Dionne Warwick singing "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?". But the emasculated mish-mash of styles Elkins introduces to suggest the Sixties and Seventies only underlines the music's blandness – surely not the effect he intends.

A wiggle, a disco flick, a slow-record smooch. They're hardly motifs to set a dance-goer's pulse racing – more the kind of routines you used to see the babysitter rehearse when you spied through the sitting room door. Elkins's dancers don't arouse nearly so much interest, with their scrubbed-up, Hollyoaks smiles and shrugs. The evening's single moment of passion comes when a girl flings her entire body into the face of her partner – splat – as a final desperate gesture in "Anyone Who Had a Heart". Otherwise, any poignancy stays firmly confined to black vinyl.

j.gilbert@independent.co.uk

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